Pennsylvania courts in online battle with cyber attackers

A cyberattack on the website of Pennsylvania’s state courts agency disabled some online systems over the weekend. Officials say that no data appears to have been compromised but the online fight is continuing.

On Sunday, Pennsylvania state officials announced that the state court system was facing service outages after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

The electronic filing system used by attorneys was not available, for example, alongside other key systems. The system used for court payments – including fines, restitution, bail and registration – was also unavailable.

Debra Todd, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said the attack is being investigated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

However, late on Monday, Todd said in a statement: “There is still no indication that any court data has been compromised and our courts remain open and accessible to the public.”

The attack didn’t stop the Pennsylvania courts from opening this working week – they were operating smoothly, local news outlets said. Besides, officials say they have managed to restore some disabled services, including access to electronic dockets and an electronic document filing portal.

Still, it seems that the battle with the attackers is ongoing. After portions of the court system website had been reported as restored on Monday, they were again shut down on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, they were once more up and running.

“We remain in a virtual battle with an unknown opponent who continues to target our online platform through what federal law enforcement has deemed a significant and serious denial of service attack,” said Todd in a new statement.

The attackers or their motives were not immediately identified. It’s also not clear whether the hackers have demanded a ransom. This isn’t surprising as some DDoS attacks can use a huge amount of devices to barrage a website, and that makes it difficult to identify a culprit.

In recent months, US courts on the state level have been facing an unprecedented barrage of painful cyberattacks that take many weeks to recover from.

Courts in Kansas, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, and Illinois have all dealt with DDoS attacks, data leaks, or ransomware incidents.

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